A Sunday story in Politico, an outlet with a dubious reputation among conservatives, has resulted in a rough 24 hours for the insurgent campaign of Herman Cain.
The story, relying on anonymous sources and unnamed accusers, alleged that Cain had been accused of sexual misconduct back in the 1990s during his time as the head of the National Restaurant Association.
On the underlying accusation at the center of the story, Herman Cain has been unequivocal and consistent — from the very beginning he has absolutely denied ever doing anything inappropriate.
Unfortunately for Cain, the story is no longer about the underlying accusation — indeed, given the anonymous sources used in the Politico story, this was never going to be about those accusations. And that’s exactly what makes these types of smears so dangerous.
The mainstream media and Cain’s opponents don’t actually care about allegations of sexual misconduct. The same folks who defended Bill Clinton’s behavior, covered up for John Edwards and tried to protect Anthony Weiner haven’t suddenly found a moral compass. Quite the contrary — these folks are shamelessly using the cover of a story about “sexual harassment” to destroy a black conservative and to more broadly seek to undermine the entire tea party movement (a movement that Cain’s candidacy has come to symbolize).
Since this story broke, Cain has been 100% consistent on his absolute innocence. What has evolved or changed has been some of the details surrounding this. Given that the accusations were made 15 years ago, is this at all surprising? No.
Naturally, the more someone thinks about an event from 15 years ago, the more he will remember. Naturally, the more someone talks to others involved in the event, the more he will remember. Naturally, the more information that becomes available, the more accurately someone will be able to recount the details of events from 15 years ago.
For most politicians, the process of piecing this story together would have occurred behind closed doors. Most politicians would have canceled their public events, pulled together their high-priced consultants and hashed this out — emerging a few hours later with carefully crafted talking points.
Herman Cain is not most politicians and his campaign isn’t like most political campaigns. Instead of doing what the other career politicians would have done, Cain stayed true to Cain. He didn’t cancel events, he didn’t huddle with consultants and he hasn’t fed the media carefully crafted talking points.
Instead, the whole process that would have played out behind closed doors for most politicians has played out in front of the cameras and in front of the American people.
Herman Cain is Herman Cain — he can’t, and shouldn’t try to, be someone else.
Herman Cain’s honesty and straight-talk have been at the center of his rise in the polls. The American electorate — fatigued from the spin, excuses and obfuscation from the professional politicians — has been drawn to Herman Cain because he isn’t a professional politician.
The American people are smart enough to know that it is the professional politicians who got us into the disaster we face today. They are also smart enough to realize that we will never change the way Washington operates until we change the people we send to Washington to represent us.
It is hard for the media and the professional political class to understand Herman Cain’s appeal. They think the tea party revolution of 2010 was just another political passing fad. They do not understand that the conservative grassroots are no longer willing to settle for the lesser of two evils. They can’t come to terms with the fact that the conservative movement is no longer taking its marching orders from the old guard. These people spent months selling us on Tim Pawlenty despite his failure to gain traction in the polls, and have spent months trying to minimize Cain despite his soaring poll numbers.
The truth is that the mainstream media and the professional political class has written Cain’s political obituary time and time again over the last few months — and they have been wrong every time. Don’t be shocked when they are wrong again.
Christopher R. Barron is a Republican political consultant and Chairman of the Board of GOProud, a national organization for gay conservatives and their allies. He blogs at Red Barron.